NFC West: Gideon Yu

Eric Mangini has strong ties to San Francisco 49ers management and coaches dating back at least 15 years.

The thought of the 49ers consulting with him has obvious appeal given those connections and given Mangini's background as a defensive coordinator in particular.

Mangini, now an NFL analyst for ESPN, is reportedly among multiple football people the 49ers have considered adding as a consultant. I don't know the extent of communications between Mangini and the team, but the subject raises a few thoughts in general:
  • Open to ideas: The 49ers are coming off a Super Bowl appearance. They have succeeded beyond reasonable expectations under coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke. But they still appear open to outside ideas. That is good. The 49ers have over the years welcomed into their organization people with a range of professional backgrounds, some from outside the league. Paraag Marathe, Gideon Yu and Mark Wan come to mind as prominent examples.
  • Potential pitfalls: Bringing on a high-profile former defensive coordinator in any capacity would raise questions about the current defensive coordinator. Vic Fangio has, by all accounts, done a fantastic job for the 49ers. Mangini, if hired, might help with the offense. That's great, but he's still a high-profile defensive coach and his presence in any coaching capacity would invite questions about where the initial job might lead.
  • Ties to 49ers: Mangini worked with Baalke when both were with the New York Jets. He has also worked with 49ers special-teams coach Brad Seely. If Harbaugh were to consider adding Mangini, I would see that as evidence of his complete trust in Seely.
  • Personnel feel: Finding creative ways to use personnel could be a strength for Mangini. The 49ers have already been quite creative on that front, particularly on offense. Mangini's familiarity with Baalke from their Jets days, coupled with his coaching experience, could add value as the 49ers seek ways to maximize their personnel.

That is probably enough on the subject until we know whether this marks the beginning of the story or the end of it.

49ers' Jed York makes '40 under 40' list

October, 11, 2012
San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York has gone from punch line to respected young executive in about two years.

He deserves credit for making it happen.

York, 31, led the way as the 49ers hired coach Jim Harbaugh amid doubts he could close a deal, hired Trent Baalke as general manager when it wasn't a popular move and, most significantly, secured a new stadium in Santa Clara.

Fortune magazine has honored York by listing him 39th on its list of "40 under 40" young executives.

"Before you knock York for being the son of the team's owners," Fortune writes, "consider this: Last season, the 49ers' head coach, Jim Harbaugh, and GM Trent Baalke were both in their first year, both put in place by the young former Guggenheim Partners analyst, and the team made the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

"Harbaugh, whom York had to woo in a scrutinized public process, gelled [sic] with QB Alex Smith and got Coach of the Year. Off the field, York hired Gideon Yu, former CFO of Facebook, to be the team's president, and secured fat financing for the construction of a new $850 million stadium, set to finish in 2014."

49ers lead NFC West in estimated value

September, 5, 2012
Victories on the field and on the stadium front presumably helped the San Francisco 49ers pump up their estimated value by 19 percent from one year ago in Forbes' NFL franchise valuations.

High valuations can help strengthen borrowing power. They usually reflect organizational health. They're terrific for an owner looking to sell his franchise. They can be burdensome for heirs, as Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez discovered upon inheriting the St. Louis Rams from their mother. Estate-tax issues led them to sell the team.

The Rams rank 31st out of 32 teams in value. That will likely change if the team can get its stadium situation worked out favorably.

Minnesota (22 percent) and San Francisco (19) led the NFL in year-over-year valuation growth in Forbes' estimation. Both have favorably resolved longstanding stadium issues.

For the 49ers, finishing last season with a 13-3 record had to help. Also in the past year, the team added minority owners with deep pockets, Gideon Yu and Mark Wan.
The San Francisco 49ers issued a news release Thursday stating that their new stadium will open in 2014 even as $30 million in public funding remains in dispute.

A judge issued an order preventing the county from moving forward with plans to shift the money from the stadium toward other priorities, including education. That order remains in place until a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

In the meantime, stadium construction will move forward as planned. That is what matters from a football standpoint.

Losing the $30 million would not jeopardize stadium construction or compromise the team's ability to fund its football operations in the short term. The 49ers strengthened their financial base this offseason by welcoming as minority owners Silicon Valley player Gideon Yu and investor Mark Wan, a limited partner in the Boston Celtics.
Thaisport from San Francisco wants my take on the Peyton Manning news regarding the San Francisco 49ers. He thinks this is a "win-win" situation because Manning would deliver an NFC West title to the 49ers, Manning would make every offensive player better and the team knows Alex Smith will still be there as a fallback.

"A solid core of offensive players around a decent QB can make him look good," Thaisport writes. "A great QB around a solid core of players would make them look great. I think the 49ers front office is making all the right moves so far this off season. Your thoughts?"

Mike Sando: It's clear we need to break old habits when analyzing the 49ers. They were an easy team to mock when Jed York was publicly guaranteeing division titles with an 0-5 record, Mike Singletary was dropping trou as head coach, the team was changing offensive coordinators every year, Smith was floundering and the stadium situation remained a mess.

We should not underestimate this organization. York has led a successful push for a new stadium. He went against convention when hiring Trent Baalke as his general manager, with better-than-expected results (think NaVorro Bowman, Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner, paying Ray McDonald instead of Aubrayo Franklin). The organization secured Jim Harbaugh as head coach when Harbaugh was the hottest and, it turns out, best candidate. Gideon Yu and Kunal Malik were also strategic additions.

Now, one week into the Manning circus, we find out the 49ers have made a very calculating move to position themselves for the quarterback's services. This strikes me as something the 49ers would not have seriously considered right after the season, when the bond between Smith and Harbaugh was strongest. This decision was easier to make a couple months into the offseason, when strategic thinking takes its firmest hold.

This is a bold move, and one an organization doesn't make without leadership at the ownership level. York presumably saw this as a rare opportunity to seize upon a championship window. Sticking with Smith would have been more comfortable. The 49ers might wind up going that route, anyway. They could have some damage control to do if that is the case. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Randy Moss' addition was another move with the short term in mind.

Smith has shown he's adept at swallowing his pride. And in this case, we're talking about Peyton Manning, not some average quarterback. I'm reminded of Arizona defensive end Darnell Dockett's public support for Manning as Kevin Kolb's replacement on the Cardinals. Dockett said he would have no trouble with someone lobbying for the team to sign a new defensive end if Reggie White or Bruce Smith were the ones under consideration.

That is how I feel about teams pursuing Manning when they already have quarterbacks in place. Those teams' existing quarterbacks might not like it, but that is too bad for them. Owners, executives and coaches have a responsibility to act in the best interests of their organizations. Looking into Manning qualifies as that type of move.
The San Francisco 49ers recently launched one of the new Facebook timelines featuring photos and other material from throughout the team's history.

The team shouldn't have any lingering tech issues with the timeline after hiring Kunal Malik, founder of the Facebook IT department, as chief technology officer.

Malik worked previously with 49ers president Gideon Yu, another prominent Silicon Valley player whose addition last year signaled a new way of thinking for the 49ers. Yu, a former top executive at Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo!, has gone from chief strategy officer to team president and minority owner.

The bottom line: The 49ers' new stadium in Santa Clara had better raise the bar technologically, even by Silicon Valley standards. That is the team's stated goal, and something Yu was fired up about upon becoming minority owner during Super Bowl week.

Elsewhere in 49er land, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee lists the wideouts the 49ers might have considered, along several they still might have a shot at signing. Barrows on Vincent Jackson: "He's a big, downfield receiver -- just what the 49ers need. But he's older than most FAs on this list and has some character issues."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News notes that Marshawn Lynch has averaged better than 5 yards per carry against the 49ers.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says size will matter in the 49ers' search for receiver help.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch does not expect the Rams to fire defensive coordinator Gregg Williams amid bounty allegations stemming from Williams' tenure in New Orleans. Miklasz: "(Jeff) Fisher and Williams are football brothers. They were trained by the same football father, Buddy Ryan, who was notorious for his bounty system. ... So do any of you really believe that Fisher is shocked by any of this? Do you really believe that he hired Williams because the DC would bake cookies for the players and lead them in merry singalongs? No, Fisher hired Williams because he wants to cultivate an aggressive -- and yes, violent -- culture within his Rams defense."

Nick Wagoner of looks at the team's receiver situation.

Clare Farnsworth of looks at some of the qualities that set apart Lynch. Guard John Moffitt: "We were watching film of a practice early in training camp. Marshawn jumped over the line, off his right leg. And then landed on his right leg. Which is very hard to do. [Tom] Cable was like, 'Do you know anybody that can do that? Do you think anybody else in this room could do that?' I was like, 'No, I don’t think so.' "

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at some of the Cardinals' older free agents. On the 35-year-old Clark Haggans: "Haggans was productive n 2011, starting every game and finishing with 54 tackles. He became a part-time player around mid-season, rotating with O'Brien Schofield and Sam Acho. The younger players are expected to start in 2012, but there should be a spot for Haggans. The team needs more young outside linebackers but it needs someone to lead them, at least for another year. Keeping Haggans makes sense."
Good morning. I'm back from the NFL scouting combine and ready for free agency, which unfortunately does not begin until March 13.

The gap between the combine and free agency was once shorter. Years ago, the combine became that time when teams lined up their options, with news breaking about which free agents planned to visit certain teams when the market opened for business.

The most recent combine lacked that feel of impending activity.

But as Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis points out, the St. Louis Rams might want to act sooner when it comes to trading the second overall choice. That is because the quarterback landscape will change once free agency opens. Some teams will fill their quarterback needs, and when they do, they might have less interest in acquiring the second overall choice for a chance to draft Baylor's Robert Griffin III. Balzer: "While trades involving draft picks normally don’t occur until draft day or at best a few days before, (chief operating officer) Kevin Demoff thinks there’s a possibility something could happen before the start of the league year or at the league meeting at the end of March. Of course, trades can’t become official until the league year begins, but the deal can be in place in advance."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have "laid the groundwork" for trading the pick.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says a quick resolution to Peyton Manning's situation would help the Rams get value for the second overall choice.

Joshua Mayers of the Seattle Times suggests Leroy Hill's latest arrest could derail his career with the Seahawks. Noted: I don't think this arrest, for possessing less than one ounce of marijuana, will kill the Seahawks' interest in Hill. The arrest will hurt Hill's market value and give the Seahawks a better shot at re-signing him for less money. The situation would be different, in my view, if Hill had been caught in a more compromising position. In this case, he was hanging out at home when authorities showed up unexpectedly, acting on a search warrant after a neighbor apparently complained about smelling marijuana. The incident reflects poorly on Hill, but this allegation reflects behavior less reckless than, say, driving under the influence.

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle thinks the Seahawks should consider Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson in the draft.

More from Huard: thoughts on combine quarterbacks.

Darren Urban of says the team could bring back Deuce Lutui if he meets standards for physical conditioning. General manager Rod Graves: "It’s up to Deuce. We'd like to have him back, but one of the things we have to get worked out with Deuce is with his weight. We had to struggle with him the last couple of years. The bottom line is that Deuce hasn't played as well when he has been heavy. We would love to see Deuce come back, get in shape and play well for us and we’d love to have him under those conditions. But we can’t afford to not give someone else a chance if Deuce is going to come in overweight."

Also from Urban: to what degree the Cardinals could need to add receiver help.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers probably had Baylor receiver Kendall Wright in mind when they interviewed Griffin at the combine. Barrows: "The 49ers have traded up in each of the last two drafts, in 2010 to snag offensive tackle Anthony Davis in the first round, then last year to get quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second. Wright ran his 40-yard dash Sunday in 4.61 seconds, which is slower than expected. He'll likely run again at Baylor's pro day March 21 when he also will catch passes from Griffin."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with former 49ers executive Carmen Policy. Kawakami: "As someone who gains nothing from praising the 49ers at this point, it’s very credible when Policy calls the stadium in Santa Clara a fait accompli, talks about Santa Clara receiving possibly the best deal any community has received from an NFL team and points out the twists and turns that solidified the Santa Clara effort. ... Policy confirmed he had dinner with Gideon Yu recently and was very impressed. ... Read over his comments about the Raiders’ situation, and everything points to Mark Davis looking for the best deal in hand, and that continues to feel like Los Angeles, at some point. ... The Jim Harbaugh/Bill Walsh resiliency/emotional comparison is fascinating, and I think probably quite accurate."

Also from Kawakami: Jed York as Mark Zuckerberg? Noted: Talk about comparisons that would not have been made before hiring Harbaugh, going 13-3 and getting a stadium deal done. Yes, times have changed, and quickly.

Baalke extension promotes stability

February, 10, 2012
Trent Baalke's contract extension as San Francisco 49ers general manager, announced by the team Friday, rewards him for a sensational first season in the role.

It also means Baalke, now signed through 2016, has a deal running one season longer than the one coach Jim Harbaugh signed. That will not matter if all parties continue on their current trajectories.

Baalke helped to hire Harbaugh, who became coach of the year. He was ultimately responsible for drafting Aldon Smith, runnerup to Von Miller for defensive rookie if the year; signing cornerback Carlos Rogers, who went to the Pro Bowl; identifying NaVorro Bowman as an impact starter; and making other moves that contributed to the 49ers' 13-3 record.

Extending Baalke's contract promotes stability within the organization. It comes as the team has secured stadium financing and welcomed chief strategy officer Gideon Yu, a high-profile figure in the tech world, as team president and minority owner. Jed York becomes CEO.
INDIANAPOLIS — Peyton Manning's professional future likely does not hinge on the identity of his dinner partners.

Still, if Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald is indeed planning on grabbing a bite with the potential free-agent quarterback, Cardinals fans can feel a little better about their team's chances for landing Manning should he become available.

Fitzgerald has friendships with players throughout the league. He also has, at times, hinted that the Cardinals needed to make certain moves to improve their roster. A year ago, the Cardinals were reportedly consulting Fitzgerald on their choice of quarterback Kevin Kolb.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers this on Manning: "The Cardinals likely will be among many teams to express interest should the Colts release Manning some time in the next month or so. But I would think any team interested in paying huge amounts of money to acquire Manning would want to put him through a rigorous throwing session."

Also from Somers: Fitzgerald denies any plans to have dinner with Manning.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says a Fitzgerald-Manning meeting is on the schedule. Bickley also quotes Kurt Warner as saying the Cardinals let too many good players get away following their Super Bowl run. Warner: "Any time a team starts to do that, losing pieces they say are replaceable ... you don't replace great players. They don't come around a dime a dozen. You have to hold on to them. If you can't hold on to all of them, you have to make a committed effort to hold on to some of them and build around them. They still have Larry (Fitzgerald), of course, but you need more than that to win in this business. And that's the biggest lesson the Cardinals, and any team, can learn. It's very difficult to replace guys who are integral to a team's success."

Darren Urban of checks in with Cardinals players for thoughts on the Super Bowl. Daryn Colledge, formerly of the Packers: "You think about what it was it was like going through media day and training for that extra week and spending the week. You remember what it was like going through it with your guys. I have positive thoughts about it all because I won. It’s probably different than guys who did not win."

Also from Urban: thoughts on Larry Fitzgerald, Peyton Manning and other subjects. Urban: "Tom James of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, who has covered the Colts for years, reported mid-day that Fitz and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning were expected to have dinner, which obviously caught everyone’s eye. Fitzgerald and Manning are friends — Fitz seems to be friends with pretty much every high-profile player there is — and so it could mean nothing about the future. But it’s hard to believe, with everything happening, the subject wouldn’t come up."

Mathew Hathaway of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down the proposal for Edward Jones Dome upgrades delivered to the Rams by the local stadium authority. Hathaway: "The Rams have until March 1 to accept or reject the CVC proposal, and until May 1 to make a counteroffer. The two sides would go into arbitration if a deal isn't struck by June 15. Without an agreement, the Rams would be free to relocate after March 1, 2015." Noted: Accepting the offer seems highly unlikely. We should expect the sides to go back and forth over the coming months.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers various Rams notes, including one from former Tennessee running back Eddie George about the nature of Jeff Fisher's offense. George: "Sure, a lot of what we did was based on the power running game, but Steve McNair didn't get to three Pro Bowls or win the league MVP award just by handing the ball off. We did a lot of damage with our passing game. He (Fisher) likes to take shots down the field."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Falcons' Les Snead interviewed with the Rams for their general manager's job.

Matt Maiocco of breaks down the 49ers' defensive line, noting that just about every player at the position performed at a high level. Maiocco on Isaac Sopoaga: "Sopoaga did an excellent job of clogging the middle and keeping offensive linemen from getting to the second level to block inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. The 49ers ranked third in the NFL, allowing just 3.2 yards a carry, on run plays up the middle. That is a direct reflection on Sopoaga's ability to hold the point and stand his ground against the power run game."

Ray Ratto of offers thoughts on the 49ers' and Raiders' stadium situations. Ratto says the 49ers could not count on the Raiders to hold up their end in a joint-usage agreement. Ratto: "So it makes perfect sense that the 49ers are going their own way on a stadium, and that the NFL acknowledged this by freeing up the $200M in loans to help make that happen. Nobody knows what the Raiders are or what they want to be, and waiting around for them to discover that has proven far too expensive for all parties concerned."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News provides details on the 49ers' new ownership situation. Kawakami: "Yu and Boston Celtics LP Mark Wan were coming on as separate 1 percent investors in the 49ers. I think both are officially co-owners now. According to an NFL source, Yu and Wan purchased the 1 percent shares for $8.5M apiece, putting a value of $850M on the 49ers franchise–interestingly, the same total as the stadium financing project. I also believe that Yu has an option to buy up to 5 percent over a period of time."

Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury News provides details of the 49ers' stadium funding and the reaction from Santa Clara. Mintz: "With the stadium project steamrolling forward, Santa Clara officials did move this week to remove the only potential roadblock, filing a lawsuit to keep stadium opponents from trying to put the project back on the ballot."

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says Seahawks receiver Mike Williams plans to cut weight for the 2012 season. Williams: "I've got to get better, I've got to get faster, I've got to get more explosive. I won't be playing at 240 this year. I'm going to go down and go a lot lower than that just to give myself the best chance."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says there's a decent chance the Seahawks and other teams with top running backs will use the franchise tag to keep them. He says DeAngelo Williams' five-year, $43 million contract could complicate negotiations. The franchise tag could cost about $7.7 million on a one-year basis.

Clare Farnsworth of, mindful of Cortez Kennedy's status as a Hall of Fame finalist, says the voting process forces tough choices.
INDIANAPOLIS -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league must create appealing stadium experiences to lure fans from their increasingly user-friendly living rooms.

Goodell and the NFL have enabled the San Francisco 49ers to make it happen. The $200 million stadium loan approved Thursday was the final piece of the financial puzzle for funding a venue befitting its Santa Clara home in Silicon Valley.

"In order for the NFL to kind of thrive in the future, you have to have the ability for people to do what they want, when they want -- at the stadium," 49ers chief strategy officer Gideon Yu said Thursday, shortly after becoming a minority owner in the team.

Yu, 40, has extensive high-level experience in the tech industry. He describes himself as a die-hard football fan, a fantasy football player and, of course, fond of various gadgetry. He says York has empowered stadium planners to push technological boundaries.

"I've worked with a lot of great CEOs and founders out there," said Yu, who has brokered deals worth billions during stops at Facebook, Yahoo! and YouTube, among others. "Jed has an amazing ability to keep it high level, to keep it with a couple simple directional visions and then let his guys run with it. And we're running with it."

In other words, the stadium wireless will not only work, but it'll be blazing fast.

"Look, if we are building a new stadium in Silicon Valley, it has to be a technologically super-advanced stadium," Yu said. "Think about all you have when you are watching sports at home. Your fantasy sports, your replays, all that kind of stuff. What if you could design an entirely new stadium experience around your own preferences for technology?"
INDIANAPOLIS -- The San Francisco 49ers made news Thursday by securing $200 million in stadium financing and adding chief strategy officer Gideon Yu to their ownership team.

Yu, whose hiring in April 2011 foreshadowed good things for the 49ers' stadium efforts, adds technological and financial strength to an ownership team featuring president Jed York and family. Yu's ownership stake will be 1 percent, according to Tim Kawakami.

The 49ers secured NFL approval Thursday on a stadium loan that should allow the team to play there in 2015 at the latest, according to York. The team plans for Yu to oversee technological aspects of the stadium in an effort to outpace gains made in the viewing experience at home.

Securing funding marks the latest victory for York and the 49ers. In the last year or so, the team has hired Jim Harbaugh as head coach, posted a 13-3 record, won a playoff game, secured $850 million in non-NFL loans and, now, added the $200 million league loan toward a stadium project expected to exceed $1 billion in outlays.

York, who was 27 when he took over as team president in late 2008, has clearly grown as the face of ownership.

"You learn form experience," he said. "You don't over-celebrate the wins and you don't over-mourn the losses. That is on the field, off the field. You learn from the experience and keep going. You know you are in it for the long haul. You can't live and die with every little battle. You want to win everything but you know there is a greater reward to be won."

The funding news means the 49ers are down to their final two or three seasons at Candlestick Park. The new stadium will reside across the street from team headquarters in Santa Clara. York pointed to the team's relationship with Santa Clara as key to seeing through the stadium funding project.

"The vote in Santa Clara won by a large margin, great support in that community," York said. "I think that is really what carried it through."

York's parents and Yu accompanied him to Indianapolis for the vote.

Yu's hiring back in April seemed a bit curious. How many top Silicon Valley power players with high-level stops at Facebook, Yahoo! and YouTube become "chief strategy officer" with NFL teams? Yu made the move because he's a life-long sports fan. He grew up in Tennessee, loving football. The lure of a professional ownership stake can be strong.

"I'm an enormous football fan," Yu said. "We're doing some transformational things for the 49ers right now with the new stadium, with the new coaching staff, with the new front office. To be a part of this generational transformation that is going on here, I couldn't think of anything I'd rather do than this."

More from Yu in a bit. He has big plans for the 49ers' new stadium.
Adam Schein of Sirius NFL Radio and is back with his third annual NFL organizational rankings.

The Seattle Seahawks have overtaken the Arizona Cardinals for the top spot in the division based on ownership, quarterback, coach, front office, coaching staff and intangibles. Schein values each of those categories the same for the purposes of his evaluation, scoring teams on a 10-point scale and allowing, in some cases, for expected moves to influence rankings.

I had fun breaking down his second annual rankings a year ago.

The division has welcomed one new owner since last offseason. Quarterback situations remain unsettled. The Seahawks' playoff success lent credibility to coach Pete Carroll even though the team finished with a 7-9 record during the regular season. The lockout has subsequently made it tougher for teams to help themselves. Some of these grades could change based on how teams proceed during free agency, particularly in relation to the quarterback position.

A look at Schein's rankings and comments for NFC West teams, followed by my own thoughts:

12. Seattle Seahawks (37.5 of 60 points)

Schein: The facilities are state of the art. The home-field advantage with the '12th man' is significant. Coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider inherited a total mess. They were super-active last season, bringing in different combinations of players, leading to a street free-agent gem like Mike Williams. Hiring Tom Cable to coach the offensive line was a great move. Seattle, finally, has a good structure in place.

Sando's thoughts: The Seahawks' ability to resolve the quarterback situation will determine whether they remain on an upward trajectory. Paul Allen is an owner with plenty of resources. He stays out of the way on football decisions. The team would benefit if Allen were more involved at the league level, but that is not his style. Qwest Field provides one of the strongest home-field advantages in sports when there's something to cheer about. Schneider seems to work well with Carroll, creating a positive front-office culture. They fared well in patching holes with Chris Clemons, Raheem Brock and Leon Washington, among others. Replacing the retired Alex Gibbs with Cable stands out as a strong recovery.

16. Arizona Cardinals (36 of 60 points)

Schein: The Cards cut pay for employees across the board during the lockout. That smells of the Cardinals in the past. But Arizona’s track record of churning out excellent drafts under Rod Graves and Steve Keim is sensational. Ken Whisenhunt is the perfect coach for the Cardinals. The stadium is beautiful. The Arizona public relations staff knows how to promote the product and is regarded as top-notch. I give the Cards only a 4 at quarterback because right now Kevin Kolb is a very educated guess. If it wasn’t for that potential, it would be a minus-4.

Sando's thoughts: Ken Whisenhunt scored eight points from Schein, more than any other coach in the division commanded. That is fair based upon the Cardinals' playoff success alone. The Cardinals have a beautiful stadium, but they're in a market heavy on transplants, making it tougher to develop the loyalty other teams enjoy. Schein's nine-point score for the Cardinals' front office reflects his high opinion of the team's recent draft classes. There have been successes, no question, but the grade appears generous. Seven of the nine players Arizona drafted in the first three rounds from 2007-09 have arguably failed to meet expectations (Beanie Wells, Cody Brown, Rashad Johnson, Early Doucet, Levi Brown, Alan Branch and Buster Davis). Other teams in the division haven't fared appreciably better, but nine points on a 10-point scale seems high under the circumstances.

19. St. Louis Rams (33.5 of 60 points)

Schein: Finally, optimism! Coach Steve Spagnuolo and QB Sam Bradford changed the culture in St. Louis. The ownership issue has become a back-burner topic.

Sando's thoughts: The Rams scored only three points from Schein for ownership. I would give the Rams the benefit of the doubt in that category based on Stan Kroenke's record as a franchise owner in other sports. Kroenke gives the Rams an experienced billionaire owner with a long history in the NFL. The other NFL owners were quick to welcome Kroenke as majority owner, a positive sign for the Rams. The front office scored only five points from Schein, but it's looking like that ranking will rise in the future. Bradford, Chris Long, James Laurinaitis and Rodger Saffold have become impact players as high draft choices. The team scored big in free agency with Fred Robbins last season. Long-term stadium questions persist and the Rams need to maintain their recent improvement to climb the rankings.

24. San Francisco 49ers (28 of 60 points)

Schein: It appears that the Niners have cleared redevelopment hurdles in preparation of their move to Santa Clara in 2015. And not a moment too soon. Jim Harbaugh, Jed York and Bob Lange are major upgrades for head coach, owner and PR director in recent years. The Niners have done a nice job this year with social media. Mike Singletary was a train wreck, more punchline than coach, and Harbaugh will live up to the hype.

Sando's thoughts: The 49ers scored only one point for quarterback and four for their front office in this survey. That is a bit surprising on the quarterback front given the hope San Francisco holds for rookie Colin Kaepernick. In courting Alex Smith, the 49ers might be betting too heavily on Harbaugh's coaching powers. The improvement from Singletary to Harbaugh in dealing with quarterbacks and establishing a modern offensive philosophy has to pay off. Schein gave five points to York for ownership. That score will hinge on whether York was right about Harbaugh and whether the team secures a new stadium as desired. Silicon Valley player Gideon Yu's addition to the front office seemed like an enterprising move.
Gideon Yu's hiring by the San Francisco 49ers brightens the team's prospects for building a new stadium and enjoying it upon completion.

That seems like a reasonable read on the situation given Yu's background.

Yu, hired Tuesday as chief strategy officer, owns one of the more impressive résumés in the NFL or anywhere. He has been chief financial officer for Facebook and YouTube, senior vice president and treasurer of Yahoo! and a general partner at Khosla Ventures. He owns degrees from Stanford and Harvard, and has also worked for Disney and Hilton.

So, why would someone of Yu's stature become chief strategy officer for an NFL franchise?

Nothing against chief strategy officers, but when you've brokered deals worth more than NFL franchise are worth, as Yu has done, this sort of job seems a little ordinary. Tim Kawakami raised questions along these lines Tuesday and wondered whether the move signaled desperation mode for the 49ers on the stadium front.

Answering that question cannot explain the hiring from Yu's perspective. He appears to be a football fan, which helps. He has obvious ties to the Bay Area. He earned an MBA from Harvard and graduated from Stanford, where 49ers chief operating officer Paraag Marathe earned an MBA. Yu has also known team president Jed York for some time. They serve together on the board for Tipping Point, a charity that fights poverty in the Bay Area. Note: I updated information on Yu's educational background.

According to the 49ers, Yu will be "responsible for maximizing the team’s strategic and business prospects, as well as developing new businesses and revenue streams." Yu will also oversee the 49ers' information technology and special-projects departments as well, an indication we should expect changes to the team website, approach to social networking, etc.

The 49ers said they expect Yu to play a leading role in the Santa Clara stadium project, and in making sure a new stadium has all the latest technological amenities.